Fire Officials Address Rise in Suicides

Chicago effort has family focus


 
 

Steve MillsAngela Rozas | | Monday, March 30, 2009


CHICAGO -- The Chicago Fire Department is looking into what it says is an increase in firefighter suicides and attempts in the last year in hopes of putting together outreach programs to prevent more, officials said Friday.

The department's union president said there have been a half-dozen suicides and an undisclosed number of attempted suicides in the last year, an "above average number," prompting department officials to organize open counseling sessions and a family day to address the outbreak.

"Unfortunately, it's one of those things we just don't have an answer for," said Tom Ryan, president of the firefighters' union. "You don't know why. The victim is gone and you don't know what the thought process is."

Ryan said he does not see any obvious cause, but noted that firefighter and paramedic jobs are stressful and the people who work them tend to be stoic, bottling up their feelings.

"In the course of our job we see a lot of difficult things," he said. "Could it be a contributing factor? We don't know. Everybody leaves and goes home and you don't know what happens behind closed doors."

Larry Langford, spokesman for the department, acknowledged that there have been more suicides and attempts in the last year, and that the department is looking into why it happened.

"We're giving it more study than before," he said.

As part of its efforts, the department sponsored a Family Focus Day on Jan. 31. Rather than dwell solely on suicide, planners designed an all-day event focused on what can be at the root of serious stress, such as financial problems, substance abuse, education and other family issues, said Liz Crowe, coordinator for human relations for the department. Local financial and mental health agencies volunteered their time, she said.

"We didn't feel that if we had a lecture on suicide that we'd get a lot of people interested," Crowe said. More than 600 of the 5,000 firefighters and paramedics attended the event with their families, she said.

The department plans to have more such events.

The department also has sent personnel staff and counselors to suicide prevention and awareness seminars so that they are as attuned as possible to the issue, said Ryan.

The union is reminding members about employee-assistance programs.

"We don't want the trend to continue," Ryan said. "Firemen and paramedics -- men and women both -- tend to internalize things.

"That's because you have to be stoic in the face of some really bad things sometimes."




Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Provider Wellness and Safety

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Community Paramedicine Expanding in Maine

Eight departments receive a grant for use towards the new program.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

New Ambulance, Fire Engine Approved for Illinois Department

Officials approve new purchases for Bloomington.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Alabama Officials Worry over Ambulance Coverage

County officials work to find best solution.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Car Crashes into Texas Ambulance

Ambulance hit while responding to a call.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

San Diego Fire-Rescue Responds to Plane Crash

Small plane crashes in shopping center parking lot.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

California Beach Lightning Strike MCI

More than a dozen injured in Venice Beach lighting strike.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >